5 Best Friends and How to Use Them

We recently penned an article relating to the need to practice active listening. This is a real skill and if handled well provides the exponent with valuable information that they can then use to clinch a deal or make progress with customers/ clients and or suppliers.

Prior to this however the other party needs to be imparting information in the first place and the communication flow, verbally needs to be good. This is where the use of OPEN questions plays a big part and this is where the Five Best Friends – as in the title above – come into play.

TheFive Best Friends are:

  • HOW?
  • WHAT?
  • WHERE?
  • WHY?
  • WHO?

These ‘friends’ should be at the start of any question you place when you are trying to gather information in the initial phase of a discussion. You can’t practice any ‘active listening’ if the other party isn’t talking and too often when we accompany clients to meetings with their customers/ clients we hear questions such as:-

‘Is Brexit causing you any issues?’

‘Has the last 12 months been good for you?’

‘Do you focus on quality rather than price when buying?’

To be fair these questions, when used, can elicit some good information if the other party is open to discussion and imparting information. But, imagine you are the buyer and you want to play cards ‘close to your chest’. All three of the above questions give you a very easy route to do just that by saying simply – ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However if you re-phrase these questions using your ‘Five Best Friends.’

For example:-

‘How is Brexit affecting your business?’

‘What sort of performance have you achieved in the last twelve months? What has particularly pleased you and what would you have changed?’

‘How important is quality to you in the buying decision process? Where does price play a part?’’

Re-phrasing these questions makes it virtually impossible for the respondent to come back with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and you are far more likely to get them to start giving you valuable information.

Please don’t fall into the trap of continuing to ask these questions for the sake of it. The buyer will soon rumble the fact that you have ‘been on a course’. Remember the purpose of asking these questions is to gather the information you need to be able to propose the right solution and conclude the deal. You should move from open questions by probing for more information or clarifying points previously made by the person having ‘actively listened’ to what they have said.

For example:-

‘Earlier on you said that ‘Brexit had caused you some problems in terms of staff morale – can you expand on that point a little for me?’

‘You said earlier on in our discussion that the year had been good – what in particular were the
products/ services that delivered for you and why do you think that is?’

‘From what you said it seems to me that price plays a part but quality has to be your prime interest given your consumer promise – is that a reasonable conclusion to make?’

The first two questions above should elicit more information, the third one merely requires a ‘yes’ for you to know that your interpretation is correct – this is clarification.

Work these questioning techniques into your information gathering mechanism and remember that questions are a means to an end. The end being able to suggest the right deal for both parties. Using these techniques will gather a lot of facts and views from people that will help you get the solution right and lead to more successful meetings.

If you feel that our direct help might be useful for your business and want a free/ no obligation meeting, contact us at: or call us on 0116 232 5231

Alternatively, contact me directly using the details below.

David Turner

Managing Director

07747 023610

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